Paramount just handed it to the museum. To them, it was unimportant. A remnant of a failed three-year TV series. They handed it over, most likely assuming that it would sit in a warehouse somewhere, collecting dust on a shelf as the years peeled by.
But that was no ordinary eleven-foot-long model.
That ship was a symbol of hope. Of peace. Of equality. Of a future waiting to be actualized. The Enterprise would grow to become one of the most iconic and treasured symbols in science fiction culture.
It’s amazing how something as small as a model spaceship can mean so much to so many. Amazing, but not surprising.
You see, we humans like our symbols. From the swirls and statues of the ancient world, to the banners of the mid-evil armies, to the crests of colleges and sports teams, to iconic superhero emblems, to even the branding of large companies, humanity is filled with identifiable signs that mark the trail through our history.
Science fiction is no different.
Dr. Margaret Weitkamp is the curator collection of social and cultural dimensions of spaceflight at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. She says that after the Enterprise was cleaned up and put in the Air and Space museum, it became quite apparent that they a) had something very precious on their hands and b) that it was going to need a lot of TLC if it was going to stand the test of time.
“We had it in display and it was hanging, though it was not designed to hang,” she explained. “After doing some x-ray work they discovered that there were some stress fractures in the wood – it’s made almost entirely of wood and plaster – and it is now supported on display.”
She went on to say that this ship, this mighty vessel, meant the world to the fans of Star Trek. She saw people express support in all sorts of ways for this ship, treating it not like a relic of the past, but a symbol of the future.
“To the fans, the Enterprise was theirs,” she said. “We were just entrusted with taking care of it.”